Thursday, October 30, 2008
I'm hunting for a new mobile phone to replace my 4-year-old Samsung which doesn't even have polyphonic ringtones. Hubby said, "What do you mean your Samsung has no polyphonic ringtones!? The Koreans invented that stuff!" Well, yeah, it's THAT old a model, and while it still works, it's starting to get cranky.
Sony Ericsson came out with two souped up devices yesterday. The Cyber-shot C905 which features an 8.1-megapixel camera, and the much awaited Xperia X1, its answer to the iPhone. Here are photos and preliminary impressions from their launch.
Actually this blog started with a Sony Ericsson phone (I borrowed hubby's 2-megapixel w850i, as obviously my Samsung couldn't take decent enough photos to save its life). At first I was just happy for any photos and the ability to take them discreetly, but 12 posts later, I decided I needed a proper camera. For photo quality, cameraphones just cannot compare to a standalone digital camera. So, one extra gadget to carry.
I then wondered if one day, cameraphones might actually catch up but I wasn't hopeful. Well, it looks like there might be a happy compromise now. The Cybershot C905 is almost as full-featured as its standalone cousins. Aside from really big photos (up to A3 size), there's face detection, smart contrast, image stabilizer features, and even on-the-go photo editing. I tried one shot at the dark venue and the colours turned out quite accurately. I still think it might be a challenge for dim-lit dining places though but who knows. Somebody try it and let me know.
Another reason this quad-band phone would be good for mobile bloggers - Wi-Fi connectivity! The C905 is also GPS-enabled for geo-tagging and navigation support. There's even an application for Facebook users to share photos of where they've been, geo-tagging via Google Earth. Stereo Bluetooth, FM radio capability, USB and even PictBridge and TV-out connections come standard. Yes, it plays music too.
The phones come in black, silver or "copper gold" shown above, which I like the best. You can see the Cyber-shot engraved lens hood, designed to not accidentally slip open and yet slides down easily when you want it to (quite a bit of work went into this, apparently). Once you slide it open, the phone automatically goes into camera mode. No need to fiddle around with buttons in front for cam activation. And all the camera-related function buttons conveniently light up in blue (see first photo). Nice touch.
Phone is S$938 without contract.
The Xperia X1 is a different creature altogether. It's a business power user's workhorse. This stainless steel smartphone is Sony Ericsson's first on the Windows Mobile platform (apps galore! Also means you will open up a portal through which your email/work documents will come and haunt you).
What's special is the nine-panel dashboard or interface that hides the WinMo platform with Apple-like flair. It lets you view and access the apps you want, with sleek effects. Fully customisable but it is a little slow.
The WVGA (800 x 480) 3-inch display is incredibly crisp and clear. It's capable of showing even the minutest details and tiniest text - which is fantastic but had me squinting a bit too much after a while. The extra wide format is great for movies though. Video playback is sharp and smooth.
The keypad slides out into an arc that tilts the display nicely for handheld viewing. The full QWERTY keypad has brushed chrome and wide pitch keys that make for easy typing. Quad-band, HSDPA, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connectivity ensure you're always connected. There's 400MB internal memory and microSD card expansion up to 4GB.
Interestingly, the 3.2-megapixel camera allows you to select the focus point via touchscreen. Just point to where you want the focus to be! I didn't get to test its photo quality but presume it's less stellar than the C905.
But honestly, after playing with the Xperia X1, I couldn't go back to the C905. You just want the touchscreen, powerful capability and apps. Technolust, such a terrible thing. I'll probably end up with more gadgets to carry than when I first started blogging - from one handphone to smartphone, P&S digital camera and/or DSLR. There is no one gizmo to rule them all.
X1 will be available November in Singapore for S$1,298 without contract.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Mhhhh mmmh!! I feel good! Got a new oven and am lovin' it! It's a simple Rowenta countertop thing but boy, it's a dream compared to the archaic ten-year-old Baby Belling (inherited from MIL), which produced erratic heat, had no window, no light and no timer (oh, and it died a few weeks back). The Rowenta on the other hand, is so powerful it doesn't even need preheating for most things! Whoa...
Anyway, started baking today after a long dry spell. I wanted to use up some flour I had. Made a 10-grain yoghurt quick bread, using the recipe right off the back of the flour's plastic wrapper. Didn't really have high hopes as the last time I used this flour, the experimental bread was yucky. But this recipe turned out fine. It had a nice crust on top, but the bread was soft inside, almost like cake.
BOB'S RED MILL 10-GRAIN YOGHURT QUICK BREAD
3 cups 10-grain flour
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups plain yoghurt
In large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and sugar. Beat eggs and add oil. Fold in yoghurt. Add wet ingredients onto the dry, and stir until moistened. Do not overmix. Pour into greased 9" x 5" loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees C (or 350 degrees F) for 55 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
P.S. I used blueberry yoghurt and reduced the sugar. Those with a sweet tooth may prefer to keep the sugar though.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Mmmh, I've been munching on these for a while now. Blogworthy biscuits! Such a simple concept - just a thin wafer sandwich with vanilla cream filling - but so delicious!
Close-up of the wafer sandwich. So thin, so crispy...
Each box (between S$3-5, can't remember exact price) gives you seven convenient packs of two pieces each. I got mine from Cold Storage but I think they should be widely available in most supermarkets.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Does anyone know what's good at Island Cafe upstairs at Tangs? I vaguely remember I had something decent there a few years ago, but just can't recall what. Momo blogged a nice Sio Bak (roast pork) which looks pretty good. On a recent trip there, my friend had the crayfish laksa (S$13). But he found it lacking in flavour. Not salty enough, and the curry was a bit diluted.
I can never resist Penang fried kway teow, but the ones in Singapore are a gamble. This one (S$12) is nowhere near what I was hoping for. It's closer to the sweetish, gooey Singapore version. And though it doesn't look like much, it'll sit in your stomach for the rest of the day. Serves us right for being too lazy to walk elsewhere for lunch.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Does anyone remember the Armenian Street char kway teow that had its own call to fame at one time (maybe like 10 years ago)? I saw a stall claiming Armenian Street heritage tucked away inside the narrow coffeeshop at 15 Upper East Coast Road, at the junction with Jalan Tua Kong. Yes, where Rajah's Curry is. But some people say this is not related to the original stall, which has shifted to North Bridge Road. Oh well.
I tried it, out of curiosity. Hmmm, it was not too bad, but no big shakes. I always use the Hill Street one at Bedok South as my yardstick, and so far nothing beats that, for me. But this one is fine if you're not fussy.
They also sell various ngoh hiang or wuxiang prawn fritters. The prawn fritters were a bit cold by the time I got to eating them, so they tasted less than ideal, but kudos to the stall for their dipping sauce, which is rather unusual and complex. Sorry but the photo of the sauce didn't turn out well. I didn't bring my usual camera, so my little point-and-shoot had trouble with the lighting at dusk.
ARMENIAN STREET FRIED KWAY TEOW AND PRAWN FRITTERS
15 Upper East Coast Road (facing Jalan Tua Kong)
Monday, October 20, 2008
Hubby recalled this place he used to visit for good briyani. It's at Ceylon Road, just a bit further in from the feuding Katong Laksa (49 and 328) stalls at the junction of East Coast Road. But the shop has changed. It's now an Indian vegetarian shop, offering Northern, Southern and tandoori items. Hmm! We gave it a shot anyway, and were pleasantly rewarded with a nice experience.
Started with some onion pakoras (or pakoda), just S$1.50. These were fried a little too hard, but the taste grew on us. Comes with a milky, grated coconut dip.
My briyani set (S$5) comes with a couple of vegetable dishes (long beans, chickpea curry and mixed vegetables), raita, a large portion of vegetable briyani, chapati, papadum, and the most healthy sweet/dessert I've seen in a set meal - a banana! I'm not usually a big fan of vegetarian dishes, but I rather liked this. The briyani was richly infused with spices, and almost good enough to eat on its own. But it takes on a different character when paired with the side dishes. It's nice mixing and matching to see what you get.
The Southern Indian meal set (S$5.50) gives you also a medley of vegetable dishes, generous portion of steamed rice, papadum, resam, dhal, yoghurt, and again, banana for dessert. Oh, and there was a surprise of a fat, dried chili strangely filled with salt under the papadum, which gave tastebuds a lovely jolt when bitten into. It also transforms whatever you're eating into something else altogether.
Each of the dishes offered their own unique flavours. Hubby said this was the first time he's had an Indian vegetarian meal that didn't taste the same across the board.
And guess what, the friendly wait staff kept coming back to ask us if we wanted refills of any of our dishes or rice. Gosh, such hospitality! Yes, I remember certain shops in Serangoon also practised this. They make sure customers eat to their fill and satisfaction. We didn't really need refills though. We were quite full with the set as they were.
Some of the dishes are rather salty and spicy, so it's nice to see that they offer drinking water on the side. Help yourself. Yes, I doubly checked that this was not water for washing hands.
We went for mango lassi (S$3.50) and Coke Zero (S$1.30) instead though. The mango drink is thick but not too sweet. I would have preferred they use shaved or crushed ice instead of the ice cubes, which failed to cool the drink adequately (due to its viscosity).
You can also choose from an array of colourful Indian sweets, but these are generally too sweet for me, so I didn't try any.
Lots of muruku and fried snacks for takeaway at the back. These were terribly expensive - S$5 for a small 250g pack that normally sells for about S$2. We thought perhaps they used really special and quality spices and flour. So we brought home a pack of the thin muruku but it wasn't the best we've had. The YongHup one is way tastier (no doubt with more MSG too). I'm still tempted by the spiced banana chips on the bottom right but at S$6, I think I'll have to pass.
Their menu at Udipi Ganesh Vilas is huge, but prices small (click to see bigger picture). Snacks from S$1-3, dishes from S$3-6. I think I will try their thosai and some tandoori items next time.
Apart from the takeaway snacks, this place seems cheap and cheerful. Nearby is the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar temple. I hear the shop that was previously here used to support the temple's activities. Not sure if this one does too. But we'll be back again soon.
UDIPI GANESH VILAS
10 Ceylon Road
Open daily 7.30am - 10.30pm
NOTE: Closed during Deepavali on 29-30 October 2008.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Just for a lark. My friend sent me this fun link and it's hilarious. Mouse over and click on stuff (you can click more than once, some will give you surprises) - the door, spinning globe, table cupboards, flag, pageant sash, curtains, carpet, windows, photos, PC screen, items on table and walls, and Palin herself. Watch for the raptor passing by the window too! There are over 30 effects when I last counted, and I'm sure I missed a few! New items added every day until Nov 4!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Sample portions of coffee jelly served with whipped cream and kiwifruit. They look so tempting, and I regret not sampling any at the relaunch of Cuppage Terrace. These are from Kohi-Ten or "Coffee Shop" in Japanese.
Kohi-Ten prides itself on siphon-brew coffee, using quality beans from UCC (Ueshima Coffee Company). I'm not a huge coffee fan but I do like the coffees I had in Japan. Have never seen this siphon-brew there though. The baristas will perform this coffee-brewing act right before your eyes. I should come back and try it someday, and bring hubby too (he's the real coffee connoisseur in the house).
If coffee isn't your cuppa, you can try their hot chocolate. They'll serve you chocolate nuggets melting in steaming hot milk - that itself sounds like a visual treat.
Chicken teriyaki sandwiches and Japanese pizza toast for sampling - looks like the Hong Kong cafe style thick toast bread slices have invaded this place. Other food include soups, salads, pasta and hot mains. They serve breakfast too, from S$9.90 (inclusive of the special siphon brew coffee).
You'll find Kohi-Ten right at the entrance of Cuppage Terrace, next to Hibiki, a Japanese restaurant by the same owners. Stark but pleasant monotones dominate the cafe, and the staff seem friendly. There's an al fresco area too. Prices start at S$3.80 for coffee, S$10.80 for mains and S$6.90 for desserts.
Sorry I don't have more Hibiki vouchers to give away (only had one), but here are the Kohi-Ten opening promotions that everyone can enjoy.
Lunchtime special: free siphon-brew coffee (worth S$5.90) with every Hearty Meal - download the voucher here (until 30 Nov 2008)
Teatime special: add on S$3 for siphon-brew coffee with every piece of cake (S$6.90), no voucher required
19 Cuppage Terrace
Tel: 6732 808
Mon-Thu: 8.30am - 11pm
Fri-Sun: 9am - 11.30pm
19 Cuppage Terrace
Tel: 6732 808
Mon-Thu: 8.30am - 11pm
Fri-Sun: 9am - 11.30pm
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The newly relaunched Cuppage Terrace is flanked on both ends by Japanese eateries. You have Tamaya at the rear and then you have Hibiki in front, which is run by Apex-Pal, the homegrown group that owns Sakae Sushi. This is Apex-Pal's second foray into "Japanese fine-dining" - there's already a Hibiki at the Singapore Flyer.
Yes, we all have our different opinions about Sakae Sushi. So how would its higher-end sister restaurant fare? I was impressed that they were the most media-savvy of all the restaurants there, ready with their press releases and welcoming hospitality (big thanks!). The food, however, was rather hit-and-miss, personally.
They were highlighting their sumiyaki (charcoal grill) items the evening I was there. It was quite nice to see an outdoor grill, rather than be cooped up indoors smelling like the things you eat. The grilled items (mostly S$3-8) varied in quality but in general, lack the finesse found at specialists like Kazu which is just next door at Cuppage Plaza.
The menu is largely put together by their Japanese executive chef Toshihiro Ueda or Tommy-san, who has 30 years of experience at restaurants in Australia and five-star hotels. Sake and shochu are available to accompany your meal.
A very generous slab of cod, but a little bit overcooked and dry. The slightly rubbery skin also stuck to the flesh.
Aaahh, ankimo (S$12) or monkfish liver. Foie gras of the sea. Firm texture with very subtle creamy flavour. The ponzu dressing tended to overwhelm the dish though. It was salty enough to pickle my blood vessels!
Ironically, the dish I enjoyed the most was the one I didn't take a photo of (camera fatigue had set in). Chilled sumi udon (charcoal udon, S$12), like grey inaniwa noodles with springy bite. Very refreshing. I'd come back for this.
They have various pudding style desserts (around S$6). These are really firm and dense. The tofu one I tried was almost solid. Not quite my thing but perhaps the other flavours fare better. There's a green tea tofu cheesecake version, lauded as a healthy dessert.
Dinner sets available from S$32 to S$52 (click on photos to see larger version and text).
Hibiki means a resounding sound or resonance. But despite its loftier aims, it can't seem to shake off echoes of Sakae. That doesn't mean it won't prove popular though. Sakae has its fans, who will probably appreciate this gateway into the finer aspects of Japanese dining.
I have a S$10 voucher to give away to the first person who requests it in the comments. Voucher is valid til 20th Nov 2008, and has no minimum purchase required. Other terms & conditions apply.
19 Cuppage Terrace
Open daily 11.30am - 2.30pm; 6pm - 10pm
Monday, October 13, 2008
Cable Car is a saloon named after the touristy trams of San Francisco, and styled after the era they originated in (1890s). It's right next to Tamaya, located right at the end of Cuppage Terrace. The owners also run Tamaya and the bar is connected by sliding doors upstairs to Tamaya dining areas. The joint offers free wireless internet access but I didn't get to test how good it was - next time I must bring my iPod Touch (no, no iPhones for me, yet).
This bar boasts 350 different drinks (I saw lots of mojitos on the menu), and happy hours are til 9pm daily. Foodwise, it's just some simple bites to go along with the drinks. These were samples for photo-taking during the Cuppage Terrace launch. I didn't try any so am not sure how they taste. But the crispy chicken wings look like they'd be tasty if freshly fried.
CABLE CAR 1890s SALOON
49 Cuppage Road, Cupage Terrace
3.00pm～0.00am（Sun & P.H.）
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Tamaya is an izakaya (Japanese bar/pub that offer a wide array of food to go with drinks) at the newly relaunched Cuppage Terrace. It's run by the same folks that own Ohsho just across the walkway at Cuppage Plaza. They are Japanese but have been in Singapore for a long time. The big boss is from Tokyo-Yokohama, so you may see influences from the Kanto region.
Apart from counter seats at the lower floor, Tamaya offers more dining space upstairs. Here are the traditional sitting tables, with recessed areas for legs.
Tastefully decorated private dining is available for small groups (eight or less).
The Japanese love their karaoke. Tamaya has three private rooms fully equipped with karaoke facilities for those who enjoy singing with drinking.
The kitchen is possibly large, occupying space between Tamaya and Cable Car (which also is also under the same group). The two outlets are interconnected upstairs too.
This is a sample of their salmon kamameshi (iron pot rice, S$15). The rice was subtly infused with salmon or dashi flavours, but was a bit too moist. Possibly because it was being kept in a warmer for the press.
They have a fairly extensive menu - sashimi, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu (wagyu and kurobuta), sumiyaki, grilled fish, hot plate, deepfried items, rice, noodles and salads are broad headings. But some items are rather unusual - chanjya (codfish intestines with Korean spicy sauce) and kuroika shiokara (salted black squid guts) among the appetisers stand out, along with syuto & cream cheese (salted skipjack tuna guts with cream cheese - who would have thought of such a combination?).
House favourites include Kurobuta pirikara-ni kami tsutsumi-yaki (spicy kurobuta pork simmered in wrapped paper) and nasu to tomato no shiromiso gratin (eggplant-tomato gratin in white miso).
There are also some Western-influenced or "fusion" dishes, like mentaiko spaghetti (spicy cod roe spaghetti, S$19)and Caesar salad. The pan-fried scallops and potatoes with mentaiko in mayo sounds like a delicious combination, if a little sinful.
I'm not a fan of oden, but I found myself enjoying this the most. Tasty, clear broth with very fresh daikon and fishcake ingredients (S$15 for assorted oden). Very refreshing! Next time I must also try the buta gatsu nikomi (simmered pork tripe) that I spotted on the menu.
They have a wide range of "sours" - mixed alcoholic drinks, some containing black vinegar which supposedly gives health benefits. They taste really light, but you can feel the alcohol taking effect.
Tamaya still retains the traditional Peranakan shophouse facade, so it's rather quaint. I think it's a simple, casual, non-pretentious place. Of course, this being an izakaya, there's lots of sake and shochu.
I'm not sure the food served that evening (it was for a media event) is representative, as it's pre-prepared and kept in warmers. That could affect the taste and texture. I should like to check out the food on my own another day. Someone who did so raved to me about the chutoro (semi-fatty tuna belly, S$38 as sashimi, S$20 as nigiri sushi) and tonpei-yaki (egg omelet with pork and cabbage). I'm not too crazy about Ohsho but maybe Tamaya will have better food.
29A Cuppage Road Cuppage Terrace
Open Mon-Sat 6.00pm~1.00am（last order 11.30pm）
Sun & P.H. 6.00pm~0.00am（last order ー 11.00pm）